Fourth International Conference : “Social Thought and Theory in the MENA Region : Comparative Methods in Studying Religion and Society” — American University in Beirut, Liban, 25-26/04/ 2015

The thematic orientation of the first three rounds of this conference was set on the origin and development of social thought and theory in Muslim contexts.  Papers focused on thinkers and ideas from the Arab world, Turkey, Iran as well as other parts of West Asia in terms of studying the potential contributions to building novel theories and concepts for sociology and philosophy of society that are not solely based on European intellectual traditions.  The fourth round of the conference builds on the previous meetings and moves beyond the realm of ideas well into the realm of applications with a focus on methods of studying religion and its societal milieu.

Researchers can propose papers for the broader theme or the focused topics:

Broader theme

Abstracts should tackle broad theoretical/methodological issues that do not only aim critically at transcending Orientalism/Euro-Centrism in the Muslim world but to delve into local knowledge in order to identify novel strands in theory and methodology with their future epistemic prospects and/or limitations..

Focused topics

Methods of studying religion and society in contexts that are influenced by Islamic practices while taking into account approaches from the social sciences and humanities.  Abstracts should revolve around the following research questions:

o   Why the traditional forms of religious studies (shari’a, hadith, tafsir, fiqh, etc.) are not engaging with the social sciences and humanities? As a field, in Pierre Bourdieu’s meaning, religious knowledge enjoys certain autonomy from other fields (academic, social science, etc.).  This knowledge somehow constitutes a corpus that is increasingly disconnecting from the social sciences. This disconnection seems to be with consent of the mutual exclusion of both groups: social scientists and religious leaders.

o   How knowledge is distinguished from belief? And how both are mediated?

o   What kinds of methodological tools should be used in studying religious phenomena?

o   How to overcome problems of ethnography and the relationship between the religious community and the researcher?

o   How much do the social sciences and humanities in Muslim contexts know about: the preachers’ profiles, backgrounds, and the content of the Friday sermons?  Is this a problem of method or a lack of interest?

The program of the conference accommodate 30 participants who will present papers in Arabic, English or French.  Simultaneous translations from English and French into Arabic and from Arabic to English will be provided.

Local Organizers

Nader El-Bizri and Sari Hanafi from AUB.

Supporting Organizations

American University of Beirut, Department of Malay Studies (National University of Singapore), Institute of Humanities and Cultural Studies (Iran), Iranian Sociological Association, Board of Scientific Studies Society (Turkey), Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (Lebanon).

To view the conference program click here.

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